Sunday, April 18, 2010

No Impact Week

It's No Impact Week, and I've signed onto the pledge, so here's a warning: That means it may also be TMI (too much information) week at Daughter Number Three.

First of all, I need to say that I think the name No Impact Week is wrong. It's Less Impact Week. This goes for No Impact Man himself… It's not possible for anyone to live without environmental impact. But I take it as a motivator toward less impact -- as the original No Impact Man has. Although I know I won't take it as far as he and his family did (washing clothes in the bathtub, giving up all powered transit, even mass transit).

Here's the list of guidelines for those participating in the week, in case you're interested. It's pretty thoughtful.

One thing I want to do is write down every I action I take, to document my environmental requirements. I've been doing that today, thinking I would post it here, but after doing it for most of the day, I've decided it's too boring. Maybe parts of it will turn up later.

But what I am doing is keeping all of the waste I generate today in a reusable grocery bag, so I can look at it later and see how much of it was only useful for a very short time. As directed in the guidelines, I made a list of things I "need" to purchase this week... it's a pretty short list, because I didn't have any shopping excursions in mind. I didn't watch the Story of Stuff video, as suggested, because I've already seen it and felt its impact on my life.

Each day of the week has a theme, so here's what you have to look forward to:

  • Monday - Trash
  • Tuesday - Transportation
  • Wednesday - Food
  • Thursday - Energy
  • Friday - Water
  • Saturday - Giving Back
With No Impact Week on my mind, I wanted to highlight three stories from today's papers.

The Star Tribune's Karen Youso answered a question about the "ban" on incandescent lightbulbs. A hearing-impaired reader was concerned that this would mean no more bulbs for the signaling devices used by the deaf as doorbells, phones and baby monitors. Youso, bless her heart, pointed out that there is no ban on incandescents, despite frequent alarmist media reports to the contrary. What there is is a set of energy use requirements. These will be difficult for most incandescents to meet, but 22 types of bulbs are exempt, from 40-watt appliance bulbs to the kinds of bulbs needed for signaling devices. She also pointed out that halogens are incandescent and meet the standards.

The Pioneer Press reprinted a Los Angeles Daily News story about the Dervaes family. For over 20 years, they have been gradually changing their one-fifth-of-an-acre Pasadena yard into a working urban homestead farm, which now produces 5,300 pounds of organic fruits and vegetables, 1,780 eggs, and enough biodiesel to power their cars. Their solar panels keep them almost off the electric grid. According to the Wikipedia entry on Jules Dervaes, there's a documentary about them called HomeGrown: The 21st Century Family Farm. Their website can be found at

And then, for something completely, different, the Star Tribune's James Lileks's column, called Waste Not, But Make Room for the Living, Too. It combined great laugh lines with his patented edgy, almost-anti-environmentalism. It seems Minneapolis was named the seventh least wasteful city recently (in the Least Wasteful Cities rating,* sponsored by Nalgene, makers of reusable water bottles):
St. Paul is not on the list, which means either it was rolled into Minneapolis -- again -- or it's worse than last-place Houston, where people apparently use cars to drive their half-ton of garbage down to the boulevard. With the air-conditioning on and the windows down.
He faults the list of criteria for including things like reusing wrapping paper, taking books out of the library instead of buying them, and limiting water use when brushing teeth or showering:
So a city gets dinged because parents let kids rip open presents instead of insisting they open them with an Exacto knife so Mommy can iron out the creases and use the paper next year, and you get Care Bear paper for your high school graduation....

I know I'm supposed to stand under a cold trickle and scrub as briskly as someone hallucinating that he's covered with ants, but I have a simple rule for showers: I'm done when I'm done.
As one who is known for saving wrapping paper and who's considering putting a bucket in my shower to catch water so I can reuse it to water plants, I'm used to being made fun of. So it's okay, James, I can take it. I'll keep reading you to take the pulse of the eco-resisters... plus, you're a lot more fun to read than the Pioneer Press's Joe Soucheray, that's for sure!

* I have to say I have my own doubts about the Least Wasteful Cities study. I took the quiz and got a 1222, which puts me 10 points lower than Minneapolis's 1232 -- which is supposedly representative of everyone in Minneapolis (and St. Paul). Meaning I'm more wasteful than the average person here? Um, no. Sorry, I don't believe that. I think there was a whole lot of wishful thinking and wanting to please the interviewer going on in that survey, or a skewed sample, since they only interviewed 150 people per city. Although my low score for the heavily weighted public transit question definitely counted against me. And the survey made absolutely no allowance for people who bike instead using transit or cars. Weird.

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